Subscribe for 33¢ / day

When eighth-grader Kate Paustian is in social studies class at Williams Intermediate School, she leaves her school just after 10 a.m. and crosses Davenport's Division Street to reach Adams Elementary School.

Paustian is in Matt Stroupe's service learning class at Williams, and she helps Jennifer Policha in the kindergarten class at Adams on weekday mornings.

The service learning concept is used in schools across the United States, but this program is designed for the Williams and Adams school students. 

"I love working with little kids and I've really gotten close to some of these kids. I couldn't ask for a better class," Kate said, gesturing to the children who are almost 10 years younger than her.

Paustian, and 62 other eighth-grade students, take the short walk across the street to Adams every day to help out in 37 classrooms or, in some cases, school offices.

The idea came from Kristin Huggins, an associate principal at Williams. She got in touch with Stroupe last summer and the program started the beginning of the school year.

"We wanted to help build a connection between the elementary and intermediate school, so the little kids can see what's ahead for them, and the older kids can see what it's like, helping young children," Huggins said.

The idea was immediately embraced by the Adams principal, Laura Flynn, and by more than three dozen teachers.

Policha, the kindergarten teacher, has been in the district seven years. She supports the service learning program and appreciates help from older students like Kate.

"She has amazing initiative and is so helpful with the kids," Policha said. Kate is one of two eighth-graders that the teacher uses, and she appreciates how they easily communicate with the children.

Kate roams the room during the time she spends in the classroom, and is very helpful with electronics. The kindergartners use electronic tablets during the day, and Kate helps them on the devices, Policha said.

"I hope this program continues," she said. "It's a great opportunity for the kids, and it teaches the older kids responsibility and accountability. It really benefits both them, and us."

Another service-learning participant working at Adams is Karina Barron, who helps at the fourth-grade level. She copied papers for the classroom teacher one recent day, and said she also works with the fourth-graders on an individual basis, and in groups, like with flash cards.

Stroupe, the social studies teacher at Williams, said the service learning class is going very well. In addition to helping out at Adams Elementary, he takes the Williams students to volunteer in the community, such as at the new Davenport Food Pantry at J.B. Young Opportunity Center.

When the program launched, Stroupe spent a week showing the eighth graders how to cross Division Street safely, how to get around the elementary school, and how to behave in class.

"They were prepared," he said.

At a recent school board meeting, board members supported the eighth-graders and the service learning program.

Bruce Potts, newly elected to the board, was an intermediate school principal for many years in Davenport. "Having fun is key," he said.

The eighth-graders should keep teaching careers in mind, in the future, according to Julie DeSalvo. "Clearly you are good at it," she said.

The project reminded Clyde Mayfield of one-room schoolhouses, where older students routinely helped the younger ones. "I think it's great what you are doing," he said.